Dakota Wesleyan teach-out agreement offering Presentation College students transfer options
DWU receiving interest from displaced students
MITCHELL — It’s not exactly a position it wants to be in, but Dakota Wesleyan University is ready to step in to help students affected by the recent announcement that Presentation College in Aberdeen will cease operations at the end of the coming summer term.
It's an unusual circumstance, but one with which Dakota Wesleyan is ready to assist.
“I have been here 10 years and have not run into this in my career,” said Fredel Thomas, vice president for enrollment and marketing at Dakota Wesleyan University. "We already have students reaching out and applying and coming to visit."
Presentation College announced recently that it would cease operations following its spring and summer term, leaving some 400-plus students looking for a new institution at which to pursue their studies. That means going through the transfer process to find a new academic home.
Some of those students will be eligible to take advantage of a teach-out program, an agreement between schools that expedites and streamlines the transfer process to colleges or universities with comparable programs, athletics and crediting structure. Dakota Wesleyan was named one of the schools with a teach-out agreement with Presentation in January.
“Dakota Wesleyan University ended up being the fourth school to sign a teach-out agreement (with Presentation) overall and the first in South Dakota,” Thomas said. “They reached out to us to give us an opportunity because they saw a lot of concurrency between the two schools — size, athletics, and of course, the programs.”
As of Tuesday, the Presentation website lists 25 schools, both inside and outside South Dakota, that have entered into similar agreements to allow those students to complete their studies with a minimum of disruption to their academic lives.
Under the agreement between Presentation and Dakota Wesleyan, Presentation students with 54 credits or more completed by May 2023 can be granted automatic admission to Dakota Wesleyan with no application fee. Those students are guaranteed acceptance of their completed credits, and they are guaranteed the same approximate time to degree completion as planned at Presentation.
Students are also guaranteed comparable net tuition and fees.
Students with less than the 54 credits completed can still transfer, though not all the same benefits and guarantees are necessarily available, Thomas said. Because of the number of credits required to qualify for the program, most transfers through the teach-out program will be sophomores and juniors, but there will still be other students to consider, such as incoming freshmen who chose Presentation.
DWU-Presentation Mapping by inforumdocs on Scribd
“For all the rest of the students, they will fall into the transfer category. For those, we will just be a friendly transfer institution,” Thomas said. “Based on credits, sophomores and juniors, most of them will fall into the teach-out agreement.”
Dakota Wesleyan University is a good fit for Presentation students looking for transfer options, Thomas said. The two schools have comparable programs in studies such as biology, business, communications, criminal justice, exercise science, nursing, psychology and sports and event management. The schools share the same athletic classification — the NAIA — and Dakota Wesleyan offers the same eight men’s and women’s athletics programs as Presentation.
Dakota Wesleyan is also an in-state, faith-based institution in the Methodist tradition, while Presentation is a Catholic private school.
“We’re two hours away and we align in those cylinders, and we have every one of their sports,” Thomas said.
Thomas and members of her staff attended a teach-out fair in Aberdeen recently to meet with prospective transfer students to explain the process and share what Dakota Wesleyan University has to offer for them. She said approximately 30 students had already reached out to Dakota Wesleyan about taking advantage of the program.
Presentation students were a little taken by surprise by the school closing announcement, but were anxious to learn about the opportunities available for them at other schools. Faculty and staff at Presentation, some of whom had been there for years, were a little more downbeat, however.
Thomas said Dakota Wesleyan also interacted with those staffers specifically to discuss potential positions, but options at DWU are limited at this time, Thomas said.
“That had a much more somber feeling to it, and it was hard. This is their livelihood. We have a lot of compassion for these folks,” Thomas said. “We went down there with all our open positions, which is not very many right now, to be honest. We went there to talk to people and talk about DWU and the opportunities that we do have.”
Dan Kittle, president of Dakota Wesleyan, said the school is glad to offer options for displaced Presentation students. Seeing another educational institution close its doors is always difficult, but he knows DWU can offer some comfort and help through the teach-out agreement.
“Although the closure of Presentation College is a difficult circumstance, as it would be for any institution, its faculty, staff and students, we at Dakota Wesleyan are positioned to assist students in any way we can,” Kittle said in a statement. “We are grateful to be selected for the Teach-Out and we will work with the students, their families and the supportive staff at Presentation to ensure that students’ transitions are as seamless and easy as possible.”
Leaders at Presentation said that teach-out partnerships were the best option for making sure their students can continue on their academic journey with as little disruption to their lives and education as possible.
Transfer Teach Out DWU by inforumdocs on Scribd
“After careful evaluation of the sustainability of the College’s academic programs, and a thorough review of alternatives, the Board of Trustees and Presentation Sisters reluctantly decided to close the physical campus and implement teach-out programs as the most responsible way to steward students’ pathways to completing their degrees,” Sister Mary Thomas, president of the Presentation Sisters Corporate Board, said in a statement. “We understand and share the heartbreak by our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Aberdeen community, and we will work closely with them to succeed through this transition.”
Representatives from both Presentation and Dakota Wesleyan are working to get any transfers ironed out for students to begin classes at their new school by the fall semester of 2023.
It will be an ongoing process to complete transfers as Presentation edges closer to closure, Thomas said. The school is also still exploring exactly how many new students it can accommodate from Presentation should they choose to attend the Mitchell school.
“We are working with students, but we have demonstrated a capacity in the programs in which we’re aligned, so it’s a wait-and-see situation,” Thomas said.
It is a bittersweet situation for the Dakota Wesleyan family. Thomas said the school is proud to be in a position to offer a hand to students left adrift by the closing of Presentation, even though it is sad that it comes at the cost of losing a South Dakota institution of higher learning.
In this case, hopefully Dakota Wesleyan’s stability can be a lifeline for students seeking a new academic home.
“Through this whole experience I realize just how blessed we are at Dakota Wesleyan. We are doing so well. And I know there are small colleges that are struggling, and we are not one of them. And it just makes you realize that we are in such a good place,” Thomas said. “I feel ready, my faculty feels ready, my admissions feel ready, our athletic coaches are ready. I really feel fortunate that we’re poised well to receive these students.”
In a letter to Presentation students, Kittle noted that he himself and his family were recent “transfers” to Dakota Wesleyan. They found a new home in Mitchell, and he feels they might just do the same.
“”My wife, Ashley, my son, Grant, and I personally invite you to become a DWU Tiger,” Kittle wrote. “We took that chance in 2022 when we, as a family, joined the great DWU family. I hope you and your family will join us, too. If you do, we look forward to having you over to our home, so that we might welcome you to the community and ensure you are getting the attention you need.”
More information on the teach-out agreement between the schools can be found at the Dakota Wesleyan University and Presentation College websites.